| Rainbow News - Oct 2 2017 12:20PM

The authoritative Encyclopaedia Britannica defines ‘engineering’ as the professional art of applying science to the optimum conversion of resources of nature to the uses of humankind. The key definitional elements are: art, profession, application of science, optimum use of resources of nature, benefit of humankind. It is practical knowledge to find solutions to a problem or to improve existing solutions and interconnections with society, culture and human behaviour. Similarly, ‘development ’  has been defined as systematic use of technical knowledge to meet specific objectives and requirements and process of economic and social transformation based on complex factors and their interconnections.  The central focus of engineering profession is application of science to meet societal needs. It should really touch lives of people in many beneficial ways.

‘Knowledge is power’ is an old aphorism. After IT revolution, ‘Information is power’ gained ground. Innovation has become currency of the 21st century and now ‘Innovation is power’. In the Global Innovation Index 2017, India’s rank is 60th among 130 nations. Two years in row India has managed to improve its ranking after 5 years continuous drop in ranking before 2016. Engineers are supposed to have innovative perspective and power of exploring the depth of knowledge which are prerequisites to further accelerate the ongoing process of development. It requires engineers’ ability to synthesise solutions and not simply their capability to analyse the problems. Engineers must take a systems view at a range of scales from devices and products through to the large scale infrastructural services.

We must remember the Japanese 1-10-100 rule. Inventing a thing takes one unit of effort. The technology of lowering costs and mass-producing it takes 10 times more efforts than its invention. Then commercialising it to turn into socially and economically influential business by way of innovative ways takes a further 10 times efforts. As such engineers have to struggle to convert inventions into innovations for improving society as our society transitions to high-tech, high-value-added activities. System effectiveness is a function of quality, reliability, maintainability, safety, value engineering, cost effectiveness and human factors. Transformative change needs radical thinking. High-quality, low cost technology is required to create efficient, sustainable and corruption-free delivery systems for the benefit of the society. As dependency on technology grows, society is placed at increasing risks by technological failures and design faults whether of logistical supply of water, food, energy or other critical infrastructural system. Hence, the reliability and safety aspects assume salience.

Professional ethics has the goal of ensuring that the profession serves the legitimate goals of self, employer, profession and public. Professional responsibilities demand social, environmental, ethical, economical and commercial considerations affecting exercise of the engineering judgement. Decisions made by engineers usually have serious consequences to people and financial implications. Ethics and ethical reasoning should therefore guide decision making.  Engineers  must  make intelligent decisions that protects and enhances quality of life. The ethical standards have become so important that the CEO of an organisation is quite often termed as Chief Ethics Officer.

Professional engineers have the responsibility to remain abreast of development and knowledge in their areas of expertise, that is, to maintain their own competence. In effect, it requires a personal commitment to organising professional development, continuing education and self-testing.  They must reject  ‘ There Is No Alternative ‘ (TINA) syndrome.

Engineers have to realise the centrality of ethical concerns at the core of the profession.   We often hear that the world has shrunk to a global village. In fact, the world has shrunk further to the size of fishbowl. We live in fishbowl. There are no nooks or crannies to hide. Fishbowl transparency demands ethically transparent lifestyles. Douglas Adams has rightly said: ‘ To give real service you must add something and that is sincerity and integrity’. It is unfortunate that moral compass quite often does not point true north, towards ethics; it usually points in the direction of more profits or get-rich-quicker.  Corruption has deleterious effect on sustainable development. Admittedly, engineers do not make up the complete solution to prevention of corruption but wherever they represent in the process, they should not turn a blind eye and if circumstances call for, they should play the role of whistle blower. Engineers should not do anything which influences or compromises their professional role and responsibility or cut corners ethics-wise.

In the past, engineering practice has been based on a paradigm of controlling nature rather than cooperating with nature.  In 21st century, a major paradigm shift from control of nature to participation with nature is essential. An awareness of ecosystems and preservation as well as restoration of natural capital is required.  A new mindset of mutual enhancement of nature and humans that embraces principles of sustainable development and renewable resource management is the need of hour. The challenges are to design technologies and systems that can facilitate economy, faster technological innovations and entrepreneurship and help generate jobs, while minimising environmental impacts and using resources efficiently.

Livelihood opportunities, poverty reduction, agricultural , economic , industrial growth and environment sustainability are key elements of inclusive growth .  A sustainable development model is not only imperative today but promises to offer new opportunities in green products such as green buildings, bio fuels, green technologies such as nanotechnology and Artificial Intelligence should be explored. Engineers will have to team up with other professionals in unprecedented ways to lead the society on a sustainable economic path. Economic development sans Human Development is incomplete. Human Development Index ( a measure of happiness )  based on life expectancy, level of education, per capita income etc  for our country ranks 131st position. We have to strive hard to improve it.

In our nation, a large population live in villages and  there is need for specific technology innovation for rural areas which are simple and sustainable. As we are ascending on the growth trajectory,  Engineers  have to revisit the mindset and contribute substantially towards all round development of the  nation.  They  must venture out and have their co-values revolving around conscience, ethics and accountability  for social, economic and cultural development of the nation.

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